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Student life-after you start

Staying safe at university

Read our guide to student safety and security at university and find out the things you need to look out for while you are away to study.

Student locking up her bicycle at the rack

University safety 

Most students are unaware of crime in their town or city until they fall prey to it. Familiarise yourself with our information and top safety tips to safeguard you and your property.

It’s estimated that a third of UK students become a victim of crime, mainly theft and burglary with about 20% of student robberies occurring in the first six weeks of the academic year. 

Students with expensive equipment are seen as rich pickings by petty criminals – take care of your belongings, freshers who are not street-wise are the easiest targets.

Many universities and students’ unions will offer advice on personal safety, taking care of your belongings and how to ensure that your accommodation is safe and secure.

Top tips to staying safe

Simple precautions don’t cost much time or money. Don’t act after the event, or wait until something has been stolen – follow our advice now.

  • Take responsibility for yourself
  • Have precautions in place when going out – especially if you're alone
  • Watch how much you drink
  • Register your belongings
  • Insure your possessions
  • Make sure your house is secure
  • Be extra wary of your car or bike
  • Keep personal details safe
  • Install security software on laptop
  • Be extra careful with money – cash and online

Personal safety at university

Make sure your mobile is charged and able to make calls when you go out, in case of an emergency or if you lose the people you're with.

Try to leave a pub or club with friends, keep money you need to get home separate so you don’t spend it, and pre-book a licensed taxi or know the locations of official taxi ranks. If you use Uber you can share your location and driver's details with a friend. 

Have precautions in place when going out

Know how you will get home, and plan ahead if you’re going somewhere you don’t know. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

If you have to walk alone in the dark, try to avoid badly lit areas, parks, alleyways and underpasses. When alone on public transport, sit near the driver on a bus. Avoid using your phone in isolated places, as it can distract you from your surroundings.

Carrying a personal alarm with you is a good idea – most see these as female accessories, but figures show that male students are at higher risk of being attacked in the street.  

Watch how much you drink 

It’s easier to do something risky or foolish when you are drunk, and you’re more likely to lose your belongings. Eat before you drink alcohol, and drink plenty of water between drinks to help you not get drunk. Keep track of what and how much you’re drinking and never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger to avoid getting spiked.

Student safety and security

Register your belongings

Mark your possessions with a UV pen – your student registration number and the initials of your university makes a unique number.

Dial *#06# for your unique mobile registration (IMEI) number. This is the first thing police will check for when recovering stolen property. Register your mobile’s IMEI and the serial numbers of your electronic equipment on immobilise.com. This is a free UK property register, supported by police forces and used by them, insurers and the second-hand trade. You can also register your bike and other valuable items.

In the event of an item being lost or stolen you can register this on the Immobilise website. Contact your network provider to block the phone, same with your bank if you lose your bank card.

Insurance

Over half the students who fall prey to theft and burglary have not got adequate personal belongings cover. Insurance ensures that if something happens, you don’t have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to get your possessions replaced.  

Make sure your house is secure 

Ensure outside doors all have working and adequate locks. Fit any vulnerable downstairs windows with key-operated locks.

Keep valuables out of sight and in a secure place. Consider secure storage for expensive items if you're leaving these during the holidays.

Be extra wary of your car or bike

Invest in a good quality bicycle lock and use it. Leave your bike in designated, well-lit public bike areas and lock it to something immovable. Lock it at home too, if you keep it in a garage or halls of residence – around half of bikes stolen are taken from the owner’s home. In the UK, a bicycle is stolen on average every few minutes and it's often difficult for the police to identify the owner. Take a photo of your bike and the frame number.

Immobilise your car whenever you leave it even for a few minutes. Think about where you park. Stealing from vehicles is a major problem and you should routinely remove any gadgets or electronics, such as a sat-nav, and store them in a safe place.

Keep personal details safe

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to identity theft or be casual with your personal details. 

Keep a safe record of info e.g. driving license, passport details. Some banks and credit card companies offer a registration service but it's often chargeable. 

Be suspicious of calls or messages that ask for any personal information, passwords, PIN numbers or account details. Don't give out such information unless you are 100% sure of the validity of the request. 

Destroy papers carrying bank details, as well as your kept receipts, and destroy old cards by cutting through the chip and magnetic strip. If you lose your card, contact your bank straight away.

When you move house or flat, inform all the organisations you deal with of your new address and arrange for the post office to forward on your mail, to avoid strangers receiving your personal information. 

Install security software on laptop

Don’t assume you will never get hacked. Install security software on your computer and always carry it hidden inside a sports bag rather than in its own obvious case. 

Be extra careful with money

Keep an eye out at a cash machine for signs of interference before using it. Never accept a stranger’s help when using a cash machine, and be aware of people crowding around you and if you can, draw out money in the day. Never let your bank or credit cards out of sight in shops and restaurants to prevent cloning.

When shopping online, check the website for a padlock or unbroken key icon. Websites with ‘https:’ in the URL are secure, but if you don't see the final 's' when you come to checkout, stop the transaction immediately. The VeriSignTrust seal means that the website company's identity has been verified and that the website has passed a daily malware scan.

Useful links

There are many sources of information to help you stay safe, including:

  • If you are affected by sexual harassment or violence, find links on our site for help and support
  • CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, is the national centre dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse of children and young people
  • Get Safe Online offers free expert advice including, for example, how to avoid rogue apps
  • The thinkukknow website is a guide to internet safety and safe surfing

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